Skip to main content

First-Year Seminar (101-6-20)


Did Economics Win the Two World Wars?


Robert J Gordon

Meeting Info

Annenberg Hall G30: Mon, Wed 3:30PM - 4:50PM

Overview of class

World War II was clearly the most important single event of the twentieth century. However, the seeds for World War II were laid in World War I, making it necessary to study both wars. We will study both why these wars occurred and why they turned out the way they did. In asking why wars turned out the way they did, we will emphasize the size and performance of the economies involved, and such issues as why the U.S. and Soviet Union produced so much while Germany produced so little. In the last part of the course, students will have a chance to do independent research on any aspect of World War II which interests them, economic, political or military.

Teaching Method

In class discussion of readings. Students will be encouraged to disagree with each other and with the readings as their knowledge of the subject develops. Active class participation is important and counts for 30 percent of the grade.

Evaluation Method

There are no exams. The class grade will be based primarily on written papers, but 30% of the total grade will be based on the quality and quantity of participation in class discussion. There will be two 5-page papers, and one final paper of up to 15 pages, including at least one original table or graph. Papers will be worth a total of 70% of the final grade.

Class Materials (Required)

Most of the reading is available online through the library. In addition there is an inexpensive course packet with some of the readings. The one required book for purchase: Why the Allies Won by Overy, 1997 (ISBN: 978-0393316193)

Class Attributes

WCAS First-Year Seminar

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Reserved for First Year & Sophomore only